Getting Wasted: Binge Drinking and College Culture

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thomas Vander Ven, associate professor of Sociology and Anthroplogy at Ohio University, talks about his new book on the college culture, Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard.


Thomas Vander Ven

Comments [25]

The Truth from Becky

The phrase "white boy wasted" didnt just drop outta the air!! A reality.

Aug. 23 2011 12:32 PM
BJK from Queens, NYC

When I attended a major SUNY campus in the late '70's, I lived part of my freshman year in a dorm where the drug/drinking culture was pervasive and insidious. You could not live in the building and not be affected by it. Parties were held multiple times each week, sometimes during the week.
There are reasons that some schools have a 'party school' designation in college guides.
There is a tremendous desire (especially on the part of males) to 'fit in' as rapidly as possible into this new 'collegiate culture'.
The easiest, most readily available social lubricant for this has always been alcohol on campus.
Very few campuses take seriously the fact that those under 21 can not legally drink.
Enforcement at most schools is a joke.
There isn't one large state school, anywhere in this country, that does not witness multiple instances of alcohol poisoning or alcohol-related fatalities (car crashes, falls, various acts of stupidity) every year.
(look up the show Ira Glass did within the last few years on Penn State's drinking culture.)
Binge drinking is not harmless. I am surprised that this 'expert' on the topic never once mentioned the word 'alcoholism', as one of the real risks (especially for young people who may not be aware of a possible family vulnerability), of drinking so much alcohol, with such frequency.

Aug. 23 2011 12:12 PM
Catherine from Brooklyn

I'm in my late twenties and I was never taught how to drink. My parents were two drink max kind of people but everyone I know drinks much, much more than that. Most people I know base their consumption on: my glass is empty, I'm still here, I need another drink. But how much is too much? It's going to be different for everyone, but the only guidance I ever got regarding quantities was that little DUI chart that shows intake on one side and hours on the other and guesstimates your blood-alcohol level so you can drive (or avoid a DUI). I've learned my own limits by slowly, slowly (much too slowly) scaling back. If free love was the fun risk my parent's generation took, drink until you puke would be ours. So fun.
Somebody make us some beer condoms.

Aug. 23 2011 11:52 AM
Bob from NYC

we were drinking senseless through out entire college years. all of us, once or twice had bruises or cuts. nothing major but sometimes serious. but that was over 30 years ago and in communistic Poland where there were almost nothing else to do. studying and drinking. so is it a path which American college education wants to follow? i thnk no one in this country like communism so maybe that could be slogan anti binge drinking as bringing a red scale.
btw. i studied also in US, but i didn't have much of drinking experience here.

Aug. 23 2011 11:50 AM

Interesting that the professor is teaching at Ohio University, the school recently 'awarded' the most partying school in the US. :) I'm an alum of OU and I'm aware of its partying nature, but I made it through without much drinking and I look back feeling great about my time there.

Aug. 23 2011 11:43 AM
David from New York

The "sudden freedom" factor is important. In France where teenagers are used to drinking responsibly with adults from much earlier on, college binge drinking is less common than, say, in Britain.

Aug. 23 2011 11:43 AM
john from office

Historically, there has always been alot of drinking since colonila times. Am I incorrect.

Aug. 23 2011 11:41 AM

I recently graduated from the new school where binge drinking did not seem to be pervasive. However when I visited big schools like umass and Michigan, I saw my peers binge drinking like I couldn't believe! I don't know if city schools are less boring so we have better things to do with our time, or if we just have less of a college experience.

Aug. 23 2011 11:41 AM
db from bklyn

what about respect for the law?? most college students are under age and shouln't be buying or drinking alcohol

Aug. 23 2011 11:41 AM

What is so wrong with college kids binge drinking? I'm in my mid-20s, and from what I can see most of my peers have gotten over being totally hammered all the time. They still drink, and they still do go over the top sometimes, but they hold down their jobs, have solid relationships, and volunteer on the weekends. Kids experiment. Get over it.

Aug. 23 2011 11:41 AM
Sabrina from 10003

Downtown Manhattan is the campus for NYU. There is binge drinking on the streets where groups of young people go bar crawling and get wasted on city streets as they move from bar to bar. The bars appeal explicitly to have the y oung people participate in these bar crawls.

Aug. 23 2011 11:41 AM
Karl from Mount Vernon, NY

I think the state of the union has really screwed up today's young adults. They're confused and fickle as all hell.

An alcoholic is an alcoholic. But it could also be a generational thing. What used to be a simple right of passage, could now be a way of living or a way of life.

Aug. 23 2011 11:40 AM
Maaza from Johannesburg, South Africa

I tend to agree with Gerald from Palos Verdes, above. Having grown up in a country where we could drink alcohol from the age of 16, I was flabbergasted by the binge drinking when I arrived in California for college in 1992. Living in a place without such strict laws, I had never seen young people get so wasted. I really believe that part of the excitement was the thrill of breaking the law and doing something that we were not actually “allowed” to do. I actually stopped drinking altogether during my sophomore year because I thought the whole scene was absurd.

Aug. 23 2011 11:40 AM
Allison from Northern NJ

I think it's as simple as people not knowing how to handle being drunk. When you get a buzz, a lot of people think that they can handle more alcohol then they are really able. I think the reason why people continue to binge drink is the benefits out weigh the cost most of the time. The hangover usually isn't so bad that people will quit because of it. Also, it's just part of not knowing your limits as a young adult.

Aug. 23 2011 11:38 AM
Inquisigal from brooklyn

I'm not sure how your guest would quantify this - but when I was in my 20's, I worked in a nightclub, and on a nightly basis saw younger men and women drinking to the point of excess all the time. Seeing, hearing - and smelling - these people in their ultra-inebriated state made me vow to never get that drunk, ever in my life - and I have always been a two-drink sally ever since.

That said, what has your guest heard from students in terms of what they think when they see how disgusting their friends sound, smell, and behave when wasted?

Aug. 23 2011 11:37 AM
Maude from Park SLope

I'm 36 yrs old, but definitely did a LOT of this binge drinking in college, to blackout, right from the start. I never drank in high school. I feel like the drinking in college led me to become an alcoholic. I am now in AA and in recovery. I'm not sure if I would have become an alcoholic without the heavy drinking in college.

Aug. 23 2011 11:36 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

They binge because they are young. That translates to "stupid."

Young people often don't make wise choices (often adults don't either, but hopefully not to extent or consistency of youth.) That's what it means to be young; it means to be immature, and not yet to have learned life's lessons.

What is puzzling is what's become a common theme in our culture -- propagated by the media -- that young people are the wellspring of wisdom and older folks are stupid, petty, selfish, etc.

This only reinforces for young people that they have nothing to learn from their elders -- as if they need MORE reason to rebel.

It's all so topsy-turvy.

Aug. 23 2011 11:35 AM
Maggie from Brooklyn

My British friends let their 13- and 15- year olds drink a little bit, which I assume will "teach" them how to drink and avoid being binge drinkers. Is there any evidence to support this?

Aug. 23 2011 11:35 AM
Athenis Trakis from Greenwood Lake, NY

On a trip to Italy last summer, I was struck by the lack of drinking laws and the open drinking in public often times by youth who appeared to be underage. However, I rarely saw public drunkenness. Ironically it's as though, the mystic of drinking has been eliminated by virtue of it's availability.

Aug. 23 2011 11:33 AM
Larry from Brooklyn

In my students (I am a college professor and a psychologist), I see several factors at play.

1) no good social models for drinking. Since most college students are under 21, they cannot drink with others (for example, with faculty at a college event). I think they should be able to drink at 18.

2) poor social skills. These students are the play date generation so they are not so good at managing their own social interactions.

3). poor stress management. Student are more anxious than ever due to their poor coping skills. Alcohol is used to reduce anxiety.

Aug. 23 2011 11:33 AM
john from office

Is it possible that it is cuased by the British/Irish/german/European origins of this country. Alot of those countries have beer cultures.

I am a product of the 70's and got wasted, buzzed, hammered.

Aug. 23 2011 11:32 AM
John A.

Back to the younger "get wasted" crowd...
If you want to break your heart a bit, go to the social network site, open a popular thread (it says something like "200 notes" or more) and look at the Names the people (usually 16-22) self-identify with. Drug, Sex and Alcohol abuse are all held up and celebrated, if only in these people's chosen names.

Aug. 23 2011 11:32 AM
Melissa from NJ

Binge drinking is not limited to high school and college students. This part of "college culture" is something that hangs around long after you have left college. Many friends and acquaintances in my age bracket of 28-35 engage in binge drinking. We don't drink during the work week but when the weekend hits or we go to a party or a wedding we drink as much as we can. I don't know if we still participate in this because we don't want to grow up or that we lead such stressful busy work lives that we feel the need to let loose in an extreme way. I would be interested to hear Professor Vander Ven's thoughts on binge drinking in my age bracket.

Aug. 23 2011 11:22 AM
Frank from Glendale, Queens, NY

Binge drinking is not limited to teenagers.

The NYT today reports on a Brighton Beach bar/restaurant that gives free beer for life to those who can guzzle 5 liters of beer at a sitting!

Ugh! Lawsuit city!!!

Aug. 23 2011 11:04 AM
Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes, CA

Binging generically is the product of immaturity and privation, which is why young sailors are the canonical examples.

Immaturity is best addressed by the gradual increase in the need for responsibility; privation's excesses are best avoided with the gradual increase in the availability of what has been witheld.
As such, the absolute ban on alcohol for persons under the age of 21 is ridiculous...taking a cue from those who thought Prohibition couldn't be ended but thought th Volstead Act could be amended, why not allow those between 17 and 21 to be served a limited amount of beer and wine?

Aug. 23 2011 10:35 AM

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